Being incarcerated has a deep impact on the lives of the persons who are detained as well as the persons related to them. Whether the person is under trial or has been convicted of an offense, the deprivation of fundamental rights of the person imprisoned can result in impairment of the confidence as well as the regular conduct of the said person which can lead to irreparable mental agony and harm. There is no comprehensive legislation to deal with prisoners' rights and regulate their liberties while in jail. However, the judiciary of the country has given due recognition to the convicts and upheld the significance of their fundamental rights time and time again. In the absence of thorough legislation, the judiciary has managed to set precedents and principles upholding the various rights and liberties of prisoners that not only guide but is also binding on all the courts in India.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that no person should be deprived of his life or personal liberty. This includes prisoner as well as they are human after all. The Supreme Court in instances like DBM Patnaik v. State of Andhra Pradesh1and, Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration2has emphatically stated that a prisoner is a human being as well as a natural person or a legal person. If a person gets convicted for a crime, it does not reduce him to the status of a non-person whose rights could be snatched away at the liberty of the prison administration. The aforesaid judgments emphasize upon the overcrowding of prisons, lack of training facilities, personnel and poor infrastructure, etc. The Supreme Court has reiterated observed that the fundamental rights are supposed to be given to prisoners as well in the case of Marie Andre's v. The Superintendent, Tihar Jail3
Over the years, the courts have come to the conclusion that prisoners have certain rights that have to be provided to them-
- Right to Privacy to Prisoners and Their Spouses4
- Right Against Solitary Confinement5
- Right to Life and Personal Liberty6
- Right to Live With Human Dignity7
- Right to Health and Medical Treatment8
- Right to Speedy Trial9
- Right Against Inhuman Treatment10
Right to Home food
The Hon'ble Bombay High Court, in a judgment titled as Asgar Yusuf Mukadam And Ors. vs State Of Maharashtra (2004 CriLJ 4312) has recognized that the right to home-cooked food for the prisoners is not superfluous and they can rightly demand home cooked food. The Court held that-
"...whenever an application is filed by an under-trial prisoner for grant of facility for home food, the Magistrate will have power to pass an appropriate order on such application after hearing the authorities and giving reasons for grant of such facility to such person."
The Court further observed that under Article 21 of the Constitution,the requirements of a decent and civilized life would include the right to food, water and decent environment. Subsequently, while concluding the judgement, the Hon'ble court agreed to the fact that the prison authorities would be entitled to take appropriate steps to ensure that the drugs, messages, weapons, etc. are not transported inside the jail under the guise of supplying home food to the under-trials. In case, any mischief is brought to the notice of the Court, nothing would prevent the Court or the Magistrate to defuse such facility or even to recall the order passed granting such facility.
In the case of the Directorate of Enforcement v. Satyendar Kumar Jain and Ors. (CC NO. 23/2022) pending before the Ld. Special Judge (PC) Act, Rouse Avenue courts, New Delhi, the Hon'ble court recognized a prisoner's right to profess religion by seeing to the fact that he was being provided with the fruits and vegetables for his fast. The court referred to the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 while considering the grant of fruits and vegetables to the prisoner for his fast.
The Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 are a comprehensive set of rules that are applicable on jails across Delhi which were incorporated for the people being in remand and jail custody were being deprived of their basic rights and were being treated in an inhumane manner. They provide for almost each and every facility that the prisoner may need or to be comprehend by the prison authorities.
People have a difficult time digesting the fact that prisoners do not cease to be human beings when put behind bars. Anger takes over humanity when they see a person being convicted or even when a person is under trial. Thus they forget that prisoners are also human beings and deserve the basic human rights that are provided by the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court and many other courts of India have reiterated this position in several cases so that prisoners do not become a victim themselves. The judiciary has played a crucial role in safeguarding the rights of prisoners whenever the legislative and executive have erred and has thoroughly exercised its powers through judicial activism and has repeatedly devised new remedies and tools to protect the human's right to life and personal liberty.
Avik Gopal,Assessment Intern at S.S. Rana & Co. has assisted in the research of this Article.
1. 1975 SCR (2) 24
2. (1978) 4 SCC 409
3. AIR 1975 SC 164
4. Rahmath Nisha Additional Director General of Prisoner and Others
5. Sunil Batra Delhi Administration
6. Kharak Singh v. State of UP
7. Francis Coralie Delhi Administration, State of Andhra Pradesh v. Challa Ramakrishna Reddy
8. Rasikbhai Ramsing Rana State of Gujarat
9. AR Antulay v. RS Nayak
10. Sunil Gupta State of MP, Kadra Pehadiya v. State of Bihar
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